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Friday, October 21, 2016

Can A Bad Bureaucracy Cost You Your Social Security?

Q: I want to apply for Social Security benefits on my ex-husband’s record. I called Social Security to ask how to do this. The lady on the phone told me they can’t even talk to me until I have original copies of the marriage certificate and divorce papers. I have the divorce papers but don’t have the marriage records. When I called the office of the county where we were married, the people there said they can’t send the original, only a copy. I told them that Social Security wants the original. The county employee told me, “That’s not my problem!” I’m worried I never will be able to get Social Security benefits. What am I supposed to do?

A: Don’t you just love the bureaucracy? It almost makes me embarrassed to think I was once a government employee. I said “almost” because I know — or at least I sure hope — that there are way more helpful government employees than the two lazy bumpkins you ran into.

The first thing you can do is relax. You will be able to get the marriage documents you need, and you will be able to file for Social Security benefits on your ex-husband’s record. Just reverse the order.

The second thing you need to do is go back to your local Social Security office and file a claim for benefits. You do NOT need the documents in question to start the process. The Social Security representative you talked to the first time should have offered you the opportunity to apply for divorced wife’s benefits, and then she should have said, “And now let’s help you get the marriage certificate.” And then she should have given you the address, phone number and/or website for the bureau of vital statistics in the county where you were married.

The third thing you need to do is go back to the county office and get a “certified copy” of your original marriage record. That’s what the Social Security Administration needs. A “certified copy” is essentially a photocopy or facsimile of the original document, usually with a raised seal signed by some official from the office that maintains the records.

Q: In one of your recent columns, you explained that a woman usually cannot file for reduced benefits on her own Social Security record and expect to switch to full spousal benefits on her husband’s record at age 66. But what if she becomes a widow? Here is my situation. I just recently started taking my Social Security at age 62. I’m getting $1,200 per month. My husband, who is five years older than I am, started taking his Social Security at age 66. He is getting $2,300 per month. When he dies, will I be able to switch to widow’s benefits on his record?

A: Yes, you will. In the column you referred to, I was so intent on pointing out that if you take reduced benefits on one Social Security record, you generally must file simultaneously for benefits on any other account you might be due benefits. But I should have made it clearer that if one of the spouses dies, the rules change.

As a general rule, the only deciding factor that determines how much you get on your husband’s record after he dies is how old you are when you become a widow. Assuming you are 66 or older when that happens, you will start getting whatever he was getting. Or, to be more precise, you will continue to get your own Social Security check, and it will be supplemented with widow’s benefits so that your total monthly payment equals his Social Security amount.

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Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • montanabill

    I can hardly wait for the ACA bureaucracy to take over my healthcare.

    • SaneJane

      The ACA does not provide healthcare, insurance companies will still provide the coverage. You are sorely uninformed about the law. Please take the time to find out what the law really does. If you have insurance through your employer then you should see little change. If you don’t have insurance or if you have pre-existing conditions and can’t get insurance, then you will see a big change for the better.

      • montanabill

        SaneJane, I am the employer and you are wrong!

        • SaneJane

          If you as an employer already provide a health insurance program for your employees what changes will you have to make? If you do not now provide a program what changes will you have to make? It is easy to say I am wrong without giving any details. I have been an employee benefits administrator for over 30 years. My job has been to analyze and compare programs from the employer and employee standpoint. I would be most interested in hearing specifics to back up your one sentence reply.

          • montanabill

            Instead of normal 10-15% increase this year, the bids have come in at an average increase of 30% for full family coverage.

  • With out Social Security, many would be without any income. We would be the poverty nationof the world.

    • Jon

      Not to mention some very angry recipients (remember, if the money goes away even the one’s benefiting now will be left out in the cold) then the elders who have said, “don’t use force against the system” will be holding up banners and loading their own weapons (just imagining).

  • howa4x

    I applied for SS this past April and found every one to be helpful to expidite my check. the entire process took 30 days

  • I’m not worried about “bad bureaucracy” costing me my social security. I am scared as hell that Romney, Boehner, Ryan, Cantor, and the rest of the Retardlicans could steal it after I’ve paid in all my life!

  • joyscarbo

    I am a county worker. I’m a nurse at the public health clinic and I take pride in the customer service I provide to our patients. I recently had to call my own clinic to request a medication for my husband. After 7 hours, I had to call back because no one did anything about it!
    I provide poor and disadvantage people BETTER service than that of my own insurance-paid doctor’s office. It’s all about your person work ethic and wanting to do your best at your job.

  • Itsjustmeagain1

    What the Repugnants want is to take your investments and future investments in SS and force you invest them in the stock market. Why? The brokers are seeing the number of investors flatten out and need more suckers to bleed. They and the banks own the Congress. The main reason is to dump Billions of new dollars into an already inflated market, and they will see their portfolio bloom. Think of it; the same number of shares being fought over by more available funds. What a scheme.

  • altwere

    My wife is sixty and has been unemployed for 11 months. Her plan is to take partial SS at 62.
    What are the implacations down the road with this plan.
    I am employed and am 57.
    I am planning on working for the next eleven years.

    • SaneJane

      I took mine at 62 and do not regret it even with the substantially reduced benefit. At the time I did the math and found that it would take a number of years at the larger benefit to equal what I would get during the four years until full retirement age. Of course, I am stuck with the lower benefit for life but I would not trade away that four years. I worked at part-time or temporary jobs doing things I enjoyed and returned to college and got my degree. You and your wife have several options based on each individual income. I read a good article at AARP about these options. If you wife did not earn as much money as you have she could take SS at 62 and maybe switch to spousal benefit when you retire. Explore all your options. Regardless of these negative articles we see putting SS service, etc., in a bad light I have found them to be most helpful.

  • SaneJane

    Many processes can be started online. I applied for SS at age 62 and the process was not difficult. Everyone I came in contact with was knowledgeable, helpful and courteous. Knowing what questions to ask is helpful so do a little reading before you start.

    • Jon

      The fact of the matter is, it’s not the processors but their bosses and if the feds tell them it’s all over then the processors will be forced to stop per their leaders.. Don’t blame the processors, it will not be their fault.. Blame the g’ment that wants (and if they get even a inch, will) close down the system. THEY are who we’re angry over and they will not stop until someone above all of them says to stop (and I’m wondering who that might be). That this article is placing blame on the processors is just that much smoke to hide what the Pub sleaze balls in congress wants to do and if they get their puppet in, then there will be that much more leverage..

      • SaneJane

        I agree with you. The Republican Party has been trying to get rid of Social Security since it began. We will see more and more negative articles, etc., about the program along side praise for privatization. There propaganda has everyone believing that the system is broken and cannot be fixed. Social Security is not going broke and in fact added $95 billion to it’s surplus last year. Without SS the recession would have been much deeper.